BATON ROUGE, LA — Largely because of Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden’s Healthy City Initiative, East Baton Rouge Parish is one of 12 communities that have been chosen as a finalist for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s second annual Roadmaps to Health Prize.
Selected from more than 250 applicants across the nation, the 12 finalist communities were chosen because they distinguished themselves with creative strategies to help residents lead healthier lives.
Known as Healthy BR, the Mayor’s initiative has brought together more than 60 partner organizations to target four priorities: reducing childhood and adult obesity, fighting HIV/AIDS, improving mental and behavioral health, and providing alternatives to avoid the over-utilization of emergency rooms and EMS services for routine medical care.
Through these partnerships, many programs and initiatives have flourished. Healthy BR won a $1-million grant last year from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, and has used the money to create the Fresh Beginnings project to increase physical activity in our schools, to sponsor the Red Stick Mobile Farmers Market and a Healthy Corner Store Initiative to serve communities without access to grocery stores, and to create a Food Access Policy Commission that is currently studying the problem of urban food deserts.
Besides East Baton Rouge Parish, the 11 other finalist communities vying for the prize are Bexar County, Texas; Brownsville, Texas; Buncombe County, North Carolina; Canton, Ohio; Durham County, North Carolina; Franklin County, Maine; Sitka, Alaska; Spokane County, Washington; Taos Pueblo Tribal Community, New Mexico, Van Buren County, Iowa; and Williamson, West Virginia.
The Roadmaps to Health Prize is an annual no-strings-attached $25,000 cash prize that will be awarded to up to six of these finalist communities in June 2014. The Prize is guided by the principle that every community—regardless of health status and available resources—possesses the potential to improve and become a healthier place to live.